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The year of the sports watch

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September 2007



The sports watch roundup after BaselWorld and SIHH is assigned to me because I happen to be the ‘sportiest’ journalist on the Europa Star masthead (though Sophie Furley, Managing Editor, is a marathoner and puts me to shame running). With all the sports I play, at least I understand what the minimum requirements of a sports watch are, and I wear sports watches all the time.

This year, 2007, could be called the Year of the Sports Watch because of all the sports and sporty watches introduced. The sports watch category is a huge and profitable one because a true sports watch is the ‘no-brainer’ of the watch industry. Unlike dress watches or complicated watches, sports watches require no more thinking than just strapping them on. You don’t have to worry about them - you can do just about anything with a true sports watch (except maybe pound nails with the caseback, but with some sports watches you can probably do that without any adverse effects).

New sports watches
Indicative of what a sports watch has to be is the new Master Compressor Diving collection from Jaeger-LeCoultre. Designed to be a full-on sports watch, the Master Compressor Diving collection features remarkable design and construction in a very attractive and useful package.
The Master Compressor Diving Pro Geographic is water-resistant to 300 metres and features a mechanical depth gauge and world time that is very easy to read. In designing this cool feature, the Jaeger-LeCoultre technicians conceived the idea of transposing the exclusive system that has been driving the Atmos clock for almost 80 years into a mechanism governed by water pressure rather than air pressure. The depth gauge of the Master Compressor Diving Pro Geographic is composed of a membrane that expands or contracts according to the aquatic pressure exercised on its metal head, which is displayed on the dedicated large blue depth gauge pointer by means of a transmission system that is partially visible on the dial itself. The large rhodium-plated component, called a rack, and the central pinion, are specifically shaped to enable a logarithmic-scale display that is more detailed over the first 40 metres. You don’t have to be in the water to use this function, however. You can press on the head of the gauge at any time and watch the pointer move according to how hard you press. This 46.3mm watch features a new Geographic movement and comes in grade 5 Titanium.
The 44mm Master Compressor Diving Chronograph is water-resistant to 1,000 metres and features a robust chronograph movement, along with a pulsometer scale, something real sports enthusiasts will appreciate. The numbers and hour markers are oversized for easy readability, and the luminescence is in blue, to ensure maximum contrast below the water’s surface.
Zenith’s Defy Xtreme series continues to push sports watch specifications. These watches are meant to be used and abused, and two new watches showcase the brand’s competence. The Defy Xtreme Chronograph uses an automatic El Primero movement and is water-resistant to 1,000 metres and uses shock absorbing Zenithium Z on the balance, chronograph and pallet bridges, also incorporating an Incabloc shock absorbing device. The Chronograph comes in a 46.5mm titanium case.
A Limited Edition Zenith Defy Xtreme Open Stealth opens up the dial and is available in two versions for 100 pieces each in black and grey, also water-resistant to 1,000 metres. In the Defy Classic series, all the watches are water-resistant to 300 metres, which makes them all serious sports watches.

The year of the sports watch MASTER COMPRESSOR DIVING PRO GEOGRAPHIC by Jaeger-LeCoultre, DEFY XTREME OPEN STEALTH by Zenith

Longines has fired the first shot in its battle for supremacy in the sports watch industry with its new Sport Collection (see sidebar), a group of watches that offer something for just about anyone in the sports watch segment.

The year of the sports watch Longines’ sport collection: faster, further, higher, deeper
Aiming to become the sports watch of choice, Longines has introduced five lines in its brand new Sport Collection:
The HydroConquest line is for serious divers. It includes models that are water-resistant to 300 metres, equipped with a stainless steel case with screw-down case back and screw-in crown, as well as a unidirectional turning bezel, available in both automatic and quartz versions.
The Conquest series is a more elegant sports watch, with bezels in either white or black ceramic, polished steel, or with VVS diamonds. All the models are water-resistant to 300 metres and fitted with a screw-down case back and screw-in crown. This line is available in both automatic and quartz versions.
The GrandeVitesse series features automatic chronograph movements, linked in design to motor sports. Each model has a tachymeter adapted to its intended use, with speeds of up to Mach 2.
The Admiral series is sporty, but is not intended to be used for sports. The line includes automatic mechanical watches and chronographs and an automatic watch with a double time zone. The screw-in crown and screw-down case back allow the watch to be water-resistant to 100 metres.
The Sport Legends series pays homage to the legendary figures and exploits associated with Longines. It includes the Diver Legend, the re-issue of a 1960 diving watch revisited, the Longines Weems Second-Setting Watch, commemorating the invention of Captain Weems, and the Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch, designed by the famous aviator in the wake of his exploits of 1927. With the new Sport Collection, Longines puts the rest of the industry on notice that it is a serious player and it has the leaders of the sports watch world, companies like TAG Heuer, squarely in its sights.

Another new diving watch, which isn’t new at all, but a reminder of Breitling’s history, is the SuperOcean Heritage. Water-resistant to 200 metres, the watch is an homage to the original SuperOcean, introduced in 1957. Available with a rubber strap (with holes that echo the racing straps of the 1960s) or a woven steel bracelet, the SuperOcean Heritage is easy to read, features a new 120 tooth unidirectional bezel, comes in two sizes, 38mm or 46mm, and is COSC certified.
Tutima venerable DI300, which successfully completed a unique endurance test when it was dragged 2000 miles through the Baltic Sea for 26 days and still kept perfect time, is now available with a striking yellow dial. The case and bracelet of the DI300 are in solid titanium and the watch is water-resistant to 300 metres. Fortis’ new B-42 MarineMaster is a clean looking watch with a white dial which changes to a light blue at night, thanks to the new SuperLuminova paint covering the entire dial. The black dial version features contrasting white hands, indices and numbers that also glow blue at night. Water-resistant to 200 metres, the B-42 MarineMaster is a great choice for a true sports watch.
Concord’s re-launch this year focuses on the completely new C1. The C1 chronometer is a bold watch – its rugged, thick, big (44mm) case is complicated and difficult to make, using 42 different parts just for the case. Made using steel, rubber and composite, the watch is water-resistant to 200 metres and shock resistance is built in. The automatic chronograph movement is COSC certified, while the C1 is also available in a big date automatic version and a ladies model, in stainless steel or pink gold.

The year of the sports watch DI300 by Tutima, B-42 MARINEMASTER by Fortis, C1 by Concord

An adventure watch, the Villemont Solar Navigator is now a part of the brand’s regular collection (it was introduced last year as a limited edition). Designed as a reliable tool for exploration, using the sun as a navigational guide, the Solar Navigator is a great watch for getting to work...or to the North Pole.
One of the best looking new sports watches is the Victorinox Swiss Army Master 500 Divers’ Watch, available as a limited edition in titanium treated with black PVD. This rough and tumble watch is water-resistant to 500 metres and features an automatic helium release valve, as well as an ETA mechanical movement visible through a screw-in exhibition back.
In keeping with Reactor’s stated goal of building the best sports watch, period, is the Neutron Never Dark, which combines SuperLuminova for initial brightness and Tritium gas tubes for longevity, since they won’t lose their luminosity for more than 12 years.

The year of the sports watch SOLAR NAVIGATOR by Villemont, MASTER DIVER 500 by Victorinox Swiss Army, NEUTRON NEVER DARK by Reactor

The award of ‘Best of Both Worlds’ has to go to new watch brand Linde Werdelin, which offers up a ‘regular’ mechanical watch for normal days, then a sophisticated electronic module that snaps onto the case of the watch to make it into a climbing/adventure watch. Ingenious, the module is very sophisticated and has been put to the test in the mountains of Switzerland.
To celebrate its partnership with champion free diver Carlos Coste, Oris has introduced the Carlos Coste Chronograph Limited Edition. This massive 47mm titanium-cased watch fitted with a 4.80mm sapphire glass is water-resistant to 1,000 metres. Limited to 2,000 watches worldwide, this professional diver’s watch is equipped with a unidirectional security bezel, screw-down pushers and crown, positioned at nine o’clock for protection and a helium release valve for pressure compensation. The titanium bracelet can be extended for fitting over a wet suit and the case back is imprinted with the logo and the signature of Carlos Coste.
Timex, which made a huge splash at BaselWorld with new products and product lines, introduced the TX Diver Style, a 47mm 300 metre water-resistant divers’ watch with a depth gauge to 150 metres and a retrograde temperature gauge.

The year of the sports watch Linde Werdelin, CARLOS COSTE CHRONOGRAPH by Oris, TX DIVER by Timex

Luminox has revamped its entire range, opening up the dials, making the watches bigger and easier to read. The flagship of the line is the Ultimate Navy SEAL Chronograph, redesigned this year and more attractive than ever.
The Hamilton Khaki Action 44mm is one of the best looking, and best performing sports watches introduced at BaselWorld this year. Equipped with an automatic chronograph, the Khaki Action 44mm makes a strong statement and backs it up with 200 metre water-resistance.
Oakley’s style is one of the most innovative in the watch industry and Oakley’s use of the Unobtainium material for its straps and cases has made their designs also extremely comfortable. This year, Oakley introduces the Swiss Made Holeshot, a tachymeter scale quartz chronograph. Also available in a smaller three-hand version, Oakley is looking to get into the mainstream watch market.
Mondaine introduced its Sport collection this year as well, which features a great looking chronograph and a classic three hand date.

The year of the sports watch KHAKI ACTION by Hamilton, HOLESHOT by Oakley, SPORT COLLECTION by Mondaine

Pilots’ watches
The last place pilots’ watches want to go is the water, so water-resistance is not a high priority, though most have at least 100 metres, meaning that wearers don’t have to worry too much about getting them wet.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Alpnach is a great looking aeronautical watch with very useful features, including a chronograph, a tachymeter scale and a Valjoux 7750 with 46 hour power reserve. Water-resistant to 100 metres, the Alpnach is named after the Swiss Air Force’s Cougar helicopter base and features a unique four bladed second hand indicator, reminiscent of a propeller.
Once again, IWC Schaffhausen is following in the footsteps of the author and pilot Antoine de Saint Exupéry. IWC used his novel ‘Courrier Sud’ (Southern Mail), published in 1929, as the design source for a tribute and a limited-edition pilot’s watch - Pilot’s Watch Automatic Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry limited to the historical number 1,929. This is an automatic watch with a power reserve display, large seconds, a date indicator that resembles the altimeter display in an aircraft, and a relief engraving on the back, which outlines the geographical range of operations in Saint Exupéry’s era. 1,178 watches will be produced in stainless steel, 500 in rose gold, 250 in white gold and, once again, only a single watch in platinum, which will eventually be auctioned for charity.
Hamilton’s X-Wind turned heads last year with its combination of style and pilot-derived features. This year, a limited edition version in black and rose gold is an elegant option that still says the wearer is a man of action.

The year of the sports watch ALPANACH by Victorinox Swiss Army, PILOT EDITION by IWC, X-WIND by Hamilton

Navitec’s new Tango Charlie chronograph watches come with five bidirectional rotating bezels with graduated scales, making it possible to estimate flight time and estimated time of arrival, without manual calculations, on planes flying at 80 to 150 knots and ultra light aircraft at 80 to 150km per hour.
Luminox’s series of airplane inspired pilots’ watches, worn by actual navy and air force pilots, continues with the new Evo F-16 - bigger, bolder and easier to read. For something totally different in sports, Gerald Genta has updated the Gefica watch, originally designed after an African hunt in 1988. Initially intended to be a hunter’s watch, the use of bronze for its exterior was driven by a concern that the watch not shine in the sun. The Gerald Genta brand has reinterpreted this hunter’s watch for today’s watch market.

The year of the sports watch TANGO CHARLIE CHRONOGRAPH by Navitec, EVO F16 by Luminox, GEFICA by Gerald Genta

Cars and motorcycles
Cars have always been linked to watches, as early as the first cars, watch manufacturers came up with new and innovative ways to time the cars, provide time on the dashboard and celebrate that partnership.
Over the last year, however, motorcycles seem to be coming into the forefront. Just this year, JeanRichard and MV Agusta have announced a partnership. MV Agusta is a collector’s motorcycle, boasting the highest priced production motorcycle ever made (over US$100,000), and collaborating with JeanRichard on a series of MV Agusta themed watches makes perfect sense.
In other motorcycle news, Jaeger-LeCoultre and one of the world’s fastest men on a motorcycle, MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi, have continued their partnership again this show season. The newest iteration is the Master Compressor Extreme World Alarm ’46’ (limited to 246 pieces in pink gold and titanium and 946 in titanium), a world time watch with a mechanical alarm, for motorcyclists who need to get up in the morning. The 46.5 mm watch is powered by the new Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 912, suspended in Jaeger’s proprietary shock absorbing system. The gong for the alarm, set easily via the window on the left side of the dial, surrounds the movement and is struck by a hammer, optimizing the sound of the alarm.
In keeping with this tribute to Rossi, some of the traditional cities on the world time ring of the watch have been replaced with racetrack names in those time zones - e.g. Mugello, Laguna Seca, Donington and others, and the caseback has an engraved black lacquered ‘46’ and Rossi’s signature. There is quite a lot of yellow on the watch, including a bright yellow rubber strap, but it comes with an interchangeable black alligator leather strap for more formal occasions.
Bulova is continuing its relationship with Harley-Davidson as well. In the US, these watches are sold only in Harley-Davidson dealerships, while in other countries they are carried by jewellers.

The year of the sports watch MV AGUSTA by JeanRichard, MASTER COMPRESSOR EXTREME W-ALARM by Jaeger-LeCoultre, HARLEY DAVIDSON by Bulova

Tissot is continuing its relationship with MotoGP and current MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, introduced a new limited edition mechanical version of its MotoGP watch as a tribute to the American Hayden, with a special helmet-like case. Look for a special gold version to be introduced later this year as well. A new limited edition MotoGP watch was also introduced at BaselWorld, complete with interchangeable case backs engraved with all the different MotoGP circuits.
On the car front, Manometro’s President and Designer, Massimo Mazzuoli, and Alfa Romeo are working together on an Alfa-themed watch, though pictures and details were not available yet. An event is schedule in June to announce this watch.
Ritmo Mundo is now the official watch of the Indy Racing League (IRL), and introduced a brand new IRL-badged chronograph, complete with carbon fibre touches. Ritmo Mundo plans to seriously leverage this involvement this year, as well as its involvement with Oceans 13 and other movies.
Jacques Lemans is the official timepiece of Formula One and Chopard continues to be the sponsor of the famous Mille Miglia race, and this year’s official watch, the Mille Miglia GT XL Chrono, is bigger and bolder than ever before. Involved with the race since 1988, Chopard presented three new watches to mark the 80th anniversary of this legendary race, a limited and numbered edition - 2007 in steel and 500 in pink gold, and an unlimited version in steel, as well as the Mille Miglia GT XL Speed Black in Titanium.
Tissot is pushing its involvement with car racing: NASCAR, America’s fastest growing sport and the largest automotive spectator event, with its involvement as Official Timekeeper and Indy Racing League with ambassador Danica Patrick. Tissot introduced a new Danica Patrick Limited Edition T-Touch, a mother-of-pearl dial version with diamonds on a rubber strap. The caseback has an Indy car engraved on it as well as Patrick’s signature.

The year of the sports watch FORMULA ONE by Jacques Lemans, MILLE MIGLIA GT XL CHRONO by Chopard, DANICA PATRICK LIMITED EDITION T-TOUCH by Tissot

Audemars Piguet’s relationship with Maserati continues, as does Officine Panerai and Ferrari (celebrating Ferrari’s 60th anniversary this year) and Breitling with Bentley. With its carbon fibre dial, the new Oris TT3 Chronograph evokes the Williams BMW F1 team association. A good-looking watch with an innovative rubber strap that appears to flow directly from the case; the Oris TT3 Chronograph also comes in a dual time version. BRM and Richard Mille continue to make watches with an exposed engine feel to them.
New on the scene is Louis Chevrolet, designed to honour the man born in La Chaux-de-Fonds who changed the American car industry.

Yachting
With the America’s Cup coming in June, many watch brands are supporting different boats and introducing new product.
Audemars Piguet, the sponsor of current America’s Cup champion Alinghi, is introducing a commemorative version of the Royal Oak, the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Team Chronograph. Completely new, the watchmakers at Audemars Piguet used an unexpected material: forged carbon. Two full years of research, development and countless tests were required to ensure forged carbon had all the necessary properties and the result is an ultra-light chronograph equipped with functions designed specifically for the America’s Cup.
The dial features aesthetic accents reflecting the nautical world: the red-rimmed six-hour counter at 6 o’clock and the twenty-minute counter at 9 o’clock use an open worked hand shaped like a ship’s prow, while the Alinghi logo takes the place usually reserved for the 3 o’clock numeral. The countdown aperture appears in the upper right-hand part of the dial. It counts off the minutes prior to the start of a regatta and gradually becomes red as it nears the crucial moment when the boats cross the start line. The watch features ceramic pushers and forged carbon crown guards and is equipped with a ‘flyback’ chronograph function and a regatta countdown aperture, two devices perfectly tailored to the complex procedure of America’s Cup race starts.

The year of the sports watch INDY RACING LEAGUE by Ritmo Mundo, ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE ALINGHI TEAM CHRONOGRAPH by Audemars Piguet, PROMASTER AQUALAND ECO-DRIVE by Citizen

Girard-Perregaux is the sponsor of the most serious challenger to Alinghi, the BMW Oracle Racing Team. This year, Girard-Perregaux has brought out a series of yachting themed watches, dedicated to and identified as BMW Oracle Girard-Perregaux watches. Using high performance materials, a sharpened design and thoroughly sporty complications, this year’s collection of BMW Oracle chronographs is ready to do battle for the 32nd America’s Cup. The profile of USA 98, BMW Oracle Racing’s latest racing boat, built especially for the conquest of the 32nd America’s Cup, is engraved on the case back of each watch in this collection. The collection is made up of the Laureato Regatta Tourbillon chronograph with countdown mechanism, several versions of the Laureato USA 98 and the Laureato USA 98 Lady.
Corum recently became the Official Timekeeper of the Victory Challenge, the Swedish entry, and has announced that they are producing a special limited edition version of their new Admiral’s Cup Competition 48 that will mark their debut into the arena of the America’s Cup. The Competition 48, a special version of the Admiral’s Cup Tides watch, is an oversized sports watch with a unique look - big, rugged, but still elegant.
TAG Heuer’s Aquaracer Regatta version, introduced in March 2007, is a direct result of the brand’s collaboration with the China Team challenger for the America’s Cup.
Seiko’s new Velatura Yachting Timer is a full featured quartz watch that allows for countdown timing from any whole-minute interval up to fifteen minutes. Not only does it countdown, it also has a chronograph, a dual time display and a daily alarm.

The year of the sports watch BMW ORACLE CHRONOGRAPH by Girard-Perregaux, ADMIRAL’S CUP COMPETITION by Corum, VELATURA YACHTING TIMER by Seiko

Additional yachting watches include the Locman Elba Team and Tutima’s new Yachting Chronograph to celebrate the brand’s involvement as the Official Timekeeper at the Kieler Woche Regattas.
Panerai have been involved with classic yacht racing for several years and this year introduced the Luminor 1950 Regatta Rattrapante.

Chronographs
A chronograph doesn’t make a sports watch, but many sports watches feature a chronograph. The chronograph is one of the most popular complications in the industry right now, even though many people don’t ever use them (I use my chronographs all the time).
There were some incredible new chronographs introduced this year. First on the list is the mysterious Memoire1 from Maurice Lacroix. Billed as the first mechanical chronograph with a memory, you can find out more about this stunning development in Pierre Maillard’s article Holy Horology. Maurice Lacroix also brought its Le Chronograph manufacture movement into its regular collection (it was a limited edition last year). Patek Philippe brought its new in-house chronograph into its regular line and you have to respect this movement - if Patek Philippe have worked this long and hard on a new chronograph movement, it must be fantastic.
TAG Heuer introduced what might be the most complicated quartz chronograph ever - the Calibre S, which times to 1/100th of a second. The timekeeping is very simple as the second, hour and minute hands perform the dual functions in the chronograph mode, making it dead simple to read the chronograph, and you can go back and forth between time and chronograph mode without having to stop the chronograph. This movement is really a mixture of a precision quartz and a mechanical movement - with 230 parts; it’s as complicated as a mechanical movement.
TAG also showed the pre-series of the V4, the watch many people predicted would never work. Well, guess what? It was working on Stefan Linder’s wrist and is moving towards production - though Linder says that the company might be two years from production, as more tests have to be done on the belts that drive the movement.
Omega celebrates the Speedmaster’s 50th birthday with a limited series release of the Speedmaster Moonwatch. The Speedmaster was the first and is still the only watch to have been worn on the Moon. To commemorate this milestone, Omega pays tribute to the year 1957 when the Speedmaster was first launched and will limit production to 57 pieces of each of the three gold versions of the Moonwatch and to 1957 pieces of the stainless steel model.

The year of the sports watch THE MYSTERIOUS MEMOIRE 1 by Maurice Lacroix, LE CHRONOGRAPH by Maurice Lacroix, SPEEDMASTER 50TH BIRTHDAY by Omega

For women, Chopard has introduced the Happy Sport Chronograph. The Happy Sport is a fun watch, with the addition of a chronograph for style and function. Seiko continued its Spring Drive series with a smooth sweeping chronograph version of this interesting movement.
One of the weirdest chronographs has to be the new Outdoor HT2 from Timberland - a monster of a watch, The Timberland Outdoor HT2 has both a digital and analogue interface allowing a total of 4 different time zones to be displayed. The altimeter (available in feet and metres) keeps track of altitude, the thermometer (Celsius and Fahrenheit) and baro-meter track weather conditions and a digital compass rounds out the feature set.
One of the most anticipated chronograph introductions this year was the IWC Da Vinci chronograph, which features a display of the chronograph minutes and seconds in a sub dial at the 12 o’clock position, very simple and intuitive.

The year of the sports watch LINK MOVEMENT by TAG Heuer, LINK CALIBRE S by TAG Heuer, SPRING DRIVE CHRONOGRAPH by Seiko

Sporty watches
This year the lines between sports watches and sporty styled watches have started to blur a little when it comes to sports watches. I was sitting with a brand president who was showing me their new ‘sports watch’ line. The watches looked good - rugged, big, chunky, capable - so when I asked what the water-resistance was, I was surprised to hear the answer: 50 metres. Now, to me a watch, to be a true sports watch, should be worry free. This means that it has to be water-resistant to at least 100 metres or even better 200 metres. At 50 metres, you shouldn’t really even wear the watch into the pool or while taking a shower, because the water pressure from swimming in the pool or from the nozzle of the shower could exceed the 50 metres water-resistance.
So, I looked at the brand president and said, “That’s not a sports watch.”

The year of the sports watch OUTDOOR HT2 by Timberland, DA VINCI CHRONOGRAPH by IWC, APRODAR by H. Stern

After a pause, he nodded, admitting that it wasn’t really a sports watch. Sure, it was sporty looking, but it was designed for people who want the look but aren’t going to be climbing Mount Everest nor diving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it could lead to some consumer con-fusion, so I hope the brands make it clear exactly what kind of watch they are selling.
As an example, H. Stern introduced a great looking new watch, named after and inspired by the surf style at Rio’s famous surfing beach, Aprodar. The new Aprodar watch is not, however, meant to go into the water - it’s all about the style.

There’s never been a better time to love sports watches at all price levels. The sports watch segment is perhaps the strongest growing, with brands focusing their attention on the design, the features and the functions to make the best dedicated sports watches possible.

Sourcce: Europa Star June - July 2007 Magazine Issue